getting to know a place

i am currently on a service-learning trip at Baseco, Manila, Philippines.

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the public opinion regarding this place is that it is dangerous, a place where theft is commonplace, where fights are not infrequent, and perhaps even murder is not altogether surprising. our local guide had apprehensions about bringing us here, and the local representative for Mercy Relief had much difficulty catching a cab to the area.

i happen to be reading rebecca solnit’s absorbing wanderlust: a history of walking, and came across the following:

“walking is about being outside, in public space, and public space is also being abandoned and eroded in older cities, eclipsed by technologies and services that don’t require leaving home, and shadowed by fear in many places (and strange places are always more frightening than known ones, so the less one wanders the city the more alarming it seems, while the fewer the wanderers the more lonely and dangerous it really becomes.)”

in the same way, the more avoided Baseco is, the more they are left to themselves, the scarier it feels to the outsider. And just perhaps, the more dangerous it does become.

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even so, nothing has happened to any of us here. as a contingent of foreigners we do attract a fair amount of stares, but smiles are far more frequent. we even played a GG basketball friendly with the locals (and we would’ve been totally trashed if they weren’t playing nice).

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what makes us think, expect, the worst from other human beings? why do we feel surprised to experience human kindness in these forgotten, ignored, invisible places?

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